cover image Desert Cabal: A New Season in the Wilderness

Desert Cabal: A New Season in the Wilderness

Amy Irvine. Torrey House, $11.95 trade paper (98p) ISBN 978-1-937226-97-8

Public lands activist Irvine (Trespass: Living at the Edge of the Promised Land) takes on the late naturalist Edward Abbey in a book well worth reading despite some idiosyncratic prose. Addressing Abbey on the 50th anniversary of his classic Desert Solitaire, Irvine challenges him on male privilege, white privilege, xenophobia, and his praise of solitude, which Irvine argues is more a “literary device” than reality. What Irvine emphasizes most is the need for community over isolation. She notes that despite Abbey’s claims, he was often with people, that his writing on solitude, ironically, brought crowds to state parks in the West, and that women, especially, rely on community to stay safe in the wilds. Unfortunately, Irvine’s dizzying opening passages are potentially off-putting: “This yolk of sun has broken on a horizon sawed in two by saguaros” in a “desert that has, thank the horned gods, not succumbed to the Mad Max lunacy in Moab.” Fortunately, the end of this short book is well worth sticking past the rocky beginning. Irvine gradually builds to a ringing conclusion, stating simply and clearly that wilderness lovers “need intimacy with people every bit as much as with place” and that “going it alone is a failure of contribution and compassion.” (Nov.)